If there was ever such thing as a cult band, Chile's death metal pioneers Pentagram would probably fit the term with the utmost accuracy.
With only two demos of three songs each, which both date as far back as 1987, as their entire studio output, the name Pentagram has nevertheless persisted in time as one of the originators of what is known today as DEATH METAL. Hailed as a major influence by such genre heavyweights as Entombed, At the Gates, Napalm Death, Dismember, etc., a similar succes was ultimately denied to the members of Pentagram, due in part to their own mistakes and inexperience, as well as their geographic and socio-political surroundings.
The band was originally formed in Santiago, the capital of Chile, in 1985 by Anton Reisenegger and Juan Pablo Uribe, two friends whose primary interests were thrash metal and partying. Then unaware of the US doom rock band of the same name, the duo chose Pentagram as their project's monicker.
Influenced by the likes of Slayer, Possessed, Dark Angel, Celtic Frost, Kreator and Destruction, Reisenegger and Uribe began writing songs which soon evolved from primitive-sounding attempts at recreating the sound of their heroes, to some of the most original extreme metal compositions of their time.
Although their first gig happened as soon as December 28th, 1985, it took them over a year to convince their stand-in drummer Eduardo Topelberg (of Chilean power metal band Chronos) to join them as a permanent member.
In January 1987 the band recorded the first of two demos which were to remain the only studio work ever done by the group. The three songs included on the tape were 'Fatal Predictions', 'Demoniac Possession' and 'Spell of the Pentagram'. Interest in the band soon started to pick up, both locally and on an international level. While incipient metal publications such as Total Thrash (USA), Violent Noize (USA, edited by Blabbermouth.net initiator Borivoj Krgin) and many more hailed Pentagram as one of the most promising outfits in the flourishing international death metal scene, the band started playing shows to quickly growing crowds of Chilean metal fans, under the suspicious looks of the Chilean police, government and press. Let's not forget at the time Chile was living the twilight of Pinochet's bloody military regime.
At that time the band was functioning as a trio, with Reisenegger taking over bass duties in the studio, while Uribe would switch from rhythm guitar to bass for the band's still infrequent live appearances.
Shortly after the completion of their first demo, Reisenegger traveled to Brazil to visit his pen-pals Max and Igor Cavalera of Sepultura in Belo Horizonte. During a stop in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian independent label Point Rock offered Reisenegger a recording deal which he promptly accepted. However, communication between band and label came to a standstill following Reisenegger's return to Chile, and the planned full-length album was never materialized.
However, two songs off the debut demo were released by the Swiss label Chainsaw Murder Records on a seven-inch single, which sported the now legendary artwork of the winged witch. Currently a sought-after and frequently bootlegged item, the 'Fatal Predicitons'/'Demoniac Possession' 7' single gained the band even more international attention while fortifying the band's standing as the absolute leaders of the young Chilean underground metal scene.
Alfredo Peña, a.k.a. 'El Bey' or 'Babe', soon joined the band on bass, finally giving Pentagram a full and relatively stable line-up. While keeping busy on the live front – many concerts being shut down by Pinochet's military police – Reisenegger and company wrote and recorded their second demo, which included the tracks 'The Malefice', 'Profaner' and 'Temple of Perdition'. Boasting a much more complex and heavier sound and style, the demo II arguably brought the band to the verge of international success, a path ultimately reserved for the aforementioned Sepultura, as sadly Pentagram's days were counted.
Frustration by the lack of results (that is, a recording contract with an international label coupled with the possibility to tour) and the less-than-civilized behaviour of Chilean metal crowds (where spitting on the band on stage, either as a sign of approval or rejection, was common practice) began taking its toll on the band. When certain personal problems among band members exploded, Pentagram was effectively over. The last shows were played in 1988, but the band never made it to a stage outside their home country and only twice outside their home town.
Reisenegger went on to form Fallout, a band heavily influenced by Metallica, later to return to more extreme yet modern sounds with Criminal, who enjoyed major success in South America and released several albums on Metal Blade Records. Criminal eventually relocated to Europe where the band is functioning to this day, now signed to Germany's Massacre Records. Reisenegger currently lives in San Sebastián, Spain.
Peña joined the Chilean thrash metal band Necrosis after the disbanding of Pentagram. He committed suicide in 1990 under obscure circumstances.
Topelberg joined and played with several Chilean bands such as Arkham and progressive metal legends Dorso, also venturing out of the metal spectrum with his participation in Parkinson, Los Pecadores, and more.
Uribe was – musically – the least active ex-member of Pentagram following the band's demise. He played in some rock'n'roll bands, focusing mainly on his career as a teacher and personal coach. He now resides in Barcelona, Spain.
Over the years, bands such as Spain's Avulsed, Chile's Torturer, The Netherlands' Pentacle and, most notably, the UK's Napalm Death recorded cover versions of Pentagram songs, keeping their legacy alive in the underground scene.
In the year 2000 Picoroco Records, under close collaboration with Reisenegger, released a CD compilation of both demos and two live tracks, simply titled 'Pentagram'. The band reformed in 2001 for a one-off show at Santiago's Teatro Providencia with Criminal bassist Juan Francisco Cueto replacing the deceased Alfredo Peña on bass. The concert was filmed and recorded and later released on CD and VHS tape by Picoroco.
An upgraded version of the 'Pentagram' album was released in 2008 by Cyclone Empire Records. Dubbed 'Under the Spell of the Pentagram', the album features a bonus DVD which includes the 2001 reunion show as well as concert footage from the band's legendary 80s performances, as well as newly designed artwork including never-before-seen photos and liner notes by Nicke Andersson (Death Breath, The Hellacopters, ex-Entombed) and Mitch Harris (Napalm Death, ex-Defecation).